Your essential post-exhibition follow-up checklist

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The show is over. The last visitor has left, the stands are being dismantled and the sound of industrial hoovers fills the air. Sit down, have a well-earned break. But not for too long, mind you. You’ve only completed half of the job. There’s still important work to do. Otherwise your time at the show would have been wasted. Here are 10 tips for putting together an effective trade show follow-up campaign.

Have a plan in place before you attend the show

You’d be amazed at the number of companies that don’t have an exhibition marketing campaign in place before they attend a trade show. Most leave it until afterwards and by the time they’ve got their act together a hot lead will have become lukewarm. You should decide how you’re going to contact them – by telephone, email, direct mail or letter. If it’s by telephone get your script written, if by email or letter get it written now, or if you’re planning to send out a direct mailshot get it written and designed. Also make sure that you’ve got enough up-to-date brochures or product/service specification sheets printed.

You must act quickly or you’ll miss the boat

As soon as you return to the office, you need to set the wheels in motion. Collect up all of the information gathered at the exhibition and divide it into three piles – hot contacts, lukewarm contacts and cold fish. The first people you should be following up are those who either asked you to contact them or showed the greatest interest in your business, products or services. You can then concentrate your efforts on those who didn’t hang around for a chat but gave you a business card anyway. Lastly, contact those who attended the exhibition but didn’t meet. Their details will be available through the trade show organiser.

Make sure that your follow-up is tailored

No-one likes receiving generic marketing material. They are much more likely to respond if it’s personalised. Anyone who has attended a trade show before will know that in the following weeks they are bombarded with correspondence from people that you may or may not have met. Now it’s your turn, you can learn from their mistakes. Make sure that what you send to people is tailored to address their specific needs or interests. Address your correspondence by name, identify the show you both attended and mention what you spoke to them or one of their colleagues about.

Make your call to action specific

The leads that you generated at the show will all be interested in slightly different aspects of your business, so you need to tailor each call to action. Make sure that each one grabs their attention or nudges their curiosity. If you discussed an issue they were having, focus on how your company can solve that issue. If they were interested in seeing your product or service in action, send them a link to a video or invite them to a demo. If you discussed an issue they were experiencing, explain how your product or service can solve it.

Don’t take no for an answer. Be persistent

Most people who attend a large trade show will hand out their business card to hundreds of people and won’t usually remember all of the conversations they had. So unless you particularly stood out from the crowd, their secretary will field their telephone calls or open their post. But don’t be put off if they don’t answer straight away or appear to be avoiding your calls. Only 10% of sales are made within the first three contacts. Don’t be pushy but stay in touch with them by sending out regular marketing emails, newsletters, case studies or fact sheets and let them know when you’re due to attend another trade show. It may take 12 months but good things come to those that wait.

Smart man with glasses in black and whiteTom Rigby, Author

For over 20 years, Tom Rigbyhas helped businesses across the UK to find their voice and communicate their messages, in print and online, whether they want to generate sales, attract customers, inform stakeholders, educate the public or persuade them to join a cause. He is a published author and occasional contributor to a number of publications. www.tomrigby.com